David Byrne - lead vocals, guitar; Jerry Harrison - guitar, keyboards, vocals; Tina Weymouth - bass, keyboards, guitar, vocals; Chris Frantz - drums, vocals; Adrian Belew - lead guitar, vocals; Bernie Worrell - keyboards; Busta Cherry Jones - bass; Steve Scales - percussion; Dollette McDonald - vocals, percussion
Released at the dawn of the 1980s, Talking Heads Remain In Light album became one of the most groundbreaking albums of the decade. With it's rythmic groove based songs, this album was a significant progression from the group's first three albums and a major step in terms of both confidence and originality. When the group took the Remain In Light material to the stage, they would do so with a new expanded lineup that would take their music soaring to a whole new level. Quite a departure from the anxiety-ridden dark humor that fueled their first three albums, David Byrne's quirky vocal delivery would begin approaching that of an ecstatic evangelist and even the band's older material would take on an exciting new collective spirit.
This set begins with the core quartet of Byrne, Harrison, Weymouth and Frantz hitting the stage along with guitar acrobat Adrian Belew. They kick things off with the song that initially gained the band attention outside of New York City, "Psycho Killer." Right from the start, this is an electrifying performance, but it's the tail end of the song, featuring Belew unleashing a barrage of guitar pyrotechnics that is a sign of the energy level yet to come. With percussionist Steve Scales joining in next, the band tackle "Warning Sign," one of the first Talking Heads songs to emphasize the rhythm section of Weymouth and Frantz. This is followed by "Stay Hungry" and then the song that detailed Byrne's search for the perfect living environment, "Cities," with Dollette McDonald joinng in on vocals.
With P-Funk music director/keyboard wizard Bernie Worrell and bass player Busta Jones joining the group on stage, the nine piece lineup launch into the Fear Of Music composition "I Zimbra," With it's vibrant but nonsensical lyrical chant (borrowed from Dadaist poet Hugo Ball), "I Zimbra" was a clear precursor to the experimentation and rhythmic focus pursued more aggressively on the Remain In Light material. Two additional songs from the Fear Of Music era, "Drugs" and "Animals" also turn up here with expanded arrangements, but the"Once In A Lifetime" sandwiched in between is when this performance truly begins reaching stratospheric heights. The excitement of this new song is immediately palpable, with it's collision of melody, rhythm and Byrne's strange existential ponderings both undeniably infectious.. It would fuel one of the most unforgettable videos ever to air on MTV, with Byrne pondering his own existance with the classic line "And I say to myself, 'Self, how did I get here?'" before later exclaiming, "My God! What have I done!" This song, along with the remainder of this performance conveys a giant leap for the band in terms of composing, arranging, and originality. Much the same can be said for the deep funky grooves of "Houses In Motion," with Bernie Worrell's distinctive keyboard work propelling the arrangement.
Next, the guitars, keyboards, bass and drums, all of which are doubled in this band configuration, create one of the fiercest syncopated grooves ever, as the band deliver the politically slanted dance track, "Born Under Punches." By combining multi-layered rhythms and complex vocal arrangements, this number is one of the best examples of Talking Heads highly inventive synthesis of new wave, African trance, funk, rock and dance elements coming to full fruition. Here these seemingly disparate elements combine into an original sound that transcends racial boundaries. Guitarist Adrian Belew is particularly astonishing here and plays ferociously throughout the remainder of the set. The new material is capped off by the mad dance frenzy of "Crosseyed And Painless," one the most insanely propulsive fusions of funk and rock ever recorded.
The band next returns to the Fear Of Music album and it's most popular track, "Life Before Wartime." Like "I Zimbra" from the same album, this too was a precursor to the Remain In Light material. Originally sparked from an impromptu soundcheck jam, this song, despite containing menacing lyrics than can be interpretted as being written from a terrorists' point of view ("Heard of a van, loaded with weapons, packed up and ready to go"), was destined to become one of the great party anthems of the era. With it's relentless momentum, defiantly sarcastic chorus ("This ain't no party! This ain't no disco! This ain't no foolin' around!") and soaring instrumental breaks, this is a perfect lead in to the set's conclusion - an extended workout on Al Green's gospel classic, "Take Me To The River."With a truly ecstatic audience demanding an encore, the expanded lineup cap off this night with a spectacular performance of "The Great Curve," that is simply blazing with energy.
In many ways, this 1980 performance can be seen as the blueprint for the rest of their career as a performing band. Indeed, Talking Heads would never return to the core quartet configuration for touring again. This expanded format and set structure, which looslely traced the progression and development of the group's music, would eventually culminate in the Speaking In Toungues tour of 1983, the last days of which were immortalized in Jonathan Demme's "Stop Making Sense" movie. That year, Talking Heads would become the most compelling live band on the planet by perfecting the elements beginning to be explored here.
-written by Alan Bershaw
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